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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 2.3 Summit

Chapter 2.3 Summit 

Tree smiled and then left Hawk alone. He turned next to the man with the long neck, asking, "What man exactly is this Fox Volant of the Snowy

Mountain? What vendetta is there between him and your Master?"

To these questions the man gave the reply, "As the Master has never mentioned anything, this servant therefore dares not enquire further."

While they were thus engaged in conversation, a young servant offered them food and drink. They were surprised to find gourmet dishes and vintage wines on the hilltop of a snowy mountain. Presently the man with the long neck announced, "The wife of the Master thanks you all for honouring us with your presence. Please help yourselves and make yourselves at home." They gave their thanks in return.

Curio and Peace were glancing at each other during the meal, Prime and Radiant both rubbing their fists, while Century was just waiting to deal Third a blow with his rod. Though they were partaking of their food and drinks together, in their minds they were scheming against each other. Tree alone was revelling in the feast, devouring chunk after chunk of meat and gulping down bowl after bowl of wine, whilst swearing dreadfully. He did not resemble a Buddhist monk in the least.

After several rounds of toasting, a servant brought in a plateful of

steaming hot buns. The Company had already tired themselves out for half a day and were starving. They were delighted to help themselves to the buns now but, just as they were about to reach out for some, there suddenly came a whirring sound from high above. They raised their heads and high up a missile went whistling across the sky. Its motion was arrested temporarily on reaching the highest point of its trajectory, then it exploded, scattering rays of light. The firework burst into a kaleidoscope of colours, dispersing gradually to settle into a form, its blurred outline depicting a

winged fox.

Thereupon Tree jumped up, crying, "Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain is here."

They all went pale. The man with the long neck paid Tree his respects, saying, "My Master is still away and the enemy has come all too soon. We count on the Great Master to take charge of matters here."

"There is no need to worry," said Tree calmly. "I am here to take control.

Just ask him to ascend."

"I have something to say..." hesitated the man. "Say it out loud then," commanded Tree.

"Fox Volant can never manage to climb this precipitously steep, snowy mountain. I would like the Great Master to go down and tell him that the Master is not home," said the man.

"Go and heave him up here on the bamboo basket," shouted Tree. "I shall take care of the rest."

"I am afraid he may frighten the wife of my Master after getting up the mountain. I will then be ashamed to meet my Master," explained the man.

Tree's face darkened and he said, "You do not trust me to take care of Fox Volant; is that right?"

The long-necked fellow immediately paid him further respects, saying, "I dare not harbour such thoughts."

"You have only to let him come up here," commanded Tree. There was nothing the man could do but to give his consent. He

whispered a few words into the ears of another servant, asking him to be on the alert to protect the wife of the Master.

Tree saw all this. He chuckled, saying not a word. He then ordered the food to be taken away. They dispersed and sat down to take their tea.

Presently, the long-necked fellow announced in a loud voice, "The guest has arrived!" The two big main doors were flung open with a crash.

They stopped taking their tea and held their bowls in their hands. They looked fixedly in the direction of the portal and saw advancing through its centre two lads, side by side. They were of the same height, were about thirteen or fourteen years old and were clad in white sable robes. Each youngster had two plaits braided with red silk standing erect on his head.

Each also carried a long sword on his back. They had fine features and were of charming bearing. They struck the others as being identical in their looks. There was no way of telling one from the other. The only difference was that the lad on the right carried his sword with its hilt aslant his right

shoulder and the other lad with the hilt aslant his left shoulder. The latter also carried in his hands a case containing a visiting card.

On finding that their visitors were only two young men in their teens, they could not contain their surprise. At the same time, they were also relieved. They had expected to meet Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, the cruellest of all villains. Instead they saw only two young men. When they had come closer, they could clearly see white pearls, one braided on

each of the tiny plaits on their heads. The four pearls were about the size of a little finger, and were luminously radiant. Hawk, being Chief Escort of a convoy for delivering valuables, and Century, having been with the outlawry for a good while, were both connoisseurs of articles of value.

Their hearts beat at the sight of the four big pearls: they were worth a fortune. The sable robes worn by the two lads were of the highest quality fur, with not a single hair of a different shade, certainly very rare. Even people with a family fortune might not be able to afford finery like theirs.

The two youngsters advanced to the centre of the hall where Tree was seated. They inclined their bodies and bowed to Tree. The lad on the left held the case up and proffered it with both hands. The long-necked man took it, and opened the case before presenting it to Tree. In the case was a

large red card. Tree took it out and saw written on it, in thick ink, a row of characters reading, "Noon today will find me at the meeting place on the

snowy summit as stipulated. I, Fox Volant, communicate this message with great respect." The calligraphy was vigorous and superbly executed.

When Tree read the name Fox Volant, his heart trembled. "I see that his sobriquet Fox Volant bespeaks his ability to run like a fox on snowy ground." Then he nodded his head, asking, "Is your Master here?"

"The Master said he would be here at noon precisely," replied the lad on the right. "He does not want to keep the respectful lord of this eyrie waiting, and he therefore has dispatched my humble self to deliver his card." He

expressed himself clearly, in a ringing tone, sounding still like a child. Tree thought the two lads rather charming.

"Are you twin brothers?" asked Tree.

"Yes," answered one of the lads. He bowed to Tree before turning round to take his leave.

"Will the twin brothers please stay awhile and take some refreshment?" enquired the long-necked fellow.

"Thank you, sir," answered the younger of the two twins. "We dare not stay without the permission of our Master."

Thereupon, Sign took some fruit from the fruit basket and passed it to the twins, saying smilingly, "Will you take some fruit?"

The elder twin took the fruit and said, "Thank you, madam."

Curio showed his jealousy over trivial things. He had a fiery temper and lost control of himself all too easily. When Sign talked to the twins in this intimate manner, anger filled his breast.

"Little boys like you have taken the trouble to carry such long swords," said Curio with a chuckle. "Don't you tell me that you are also Masters at swordplay."

The two lads stared at him in surprise, answering in unison, "Sir, we are not."

"Why then assume airs by carrying those long swords?" shouted Curio. "Leave all swords behind!" He reached his hands out to snatch the hilts of the swords on their backs.

The two lads never imagined that anybody would snatch their weapons. Curio acted swiftly, and with a lightning movement he flashed the blades before their eyes. He whipped the long swords out of their sheaths and was holding them in his hands. Curio laughed out aloud, saying, "You two little

..."

The twins leapt before the next word was out of his mouth. One reached out his left hand, the other his right, and instantly they were pinching

Curio's neck with their hands, dragging him forward at the same time. Just as he was about to stage a counter-attack, his two legs were hooked, one by the outflung left leg of one lad, and the other by the outflung right of the other. Before Curio could find out what had happened, he found himself turning half a somersault in the air, dropping with a solid thud to the floor.

The fall came with greater speed than the snatching of the swords, taking everybody by surprise. The two lads then rushed forward, wanting to snatch the swords back from Curio's hands. Curio was no weakling; but he had been caught off his guard. He bounded up from the fall and stood the two

swords erect, trying to scare them off. The twins suddenly bounded up and were again pinching Curio's neck with a hand each, dragging and hooking him exactly as before. Curio once more fell to the floor with a thud.

The two lads had taken Curio by surprise in his first fall. He came off even worse in his second fall. Being Grand Master of the Dragon Lodge,

strong and in his prime, Curio could not bear to lose face to two youngsters who only came up to his chest. Seized with rage, he decided to kill them.

Before bounding up from this second fall and pointing his left sword tip down, Curio flourished his right sword and slashed the keen blade from the side on a sudden, ready to deal the twins a fatal stroke.

Curio was practising the Second Son Levelling the Mountain, a killer trick of the Dragon Lodge, extremely cruel and fierce. Even those who were adepts in martial arts had difficulty warding off the blows at the start.

Seeing what cruel fate would inevitably befall the two charming young men clad in sparkling white, Sign cried out aloud, "Stop that killer trick,

Brother!"

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